When we first heard Ninja Theory would take up the reins behind the new Devil May Cry, there was a sense of apprehension over the collective gaming community that turned into an uproar when the first trailer was shown last year. It seemed our beloved Dante was getting a makeover that turned him into some kind of emaciated emo Twilight character with this gloomy, sullen look, and (gasp!) short, black hair. I didn’t get what was the big deal as we eventually learned this new game would be a reboot. So I took the rage with a grain of salt and eventually the tides shifted to somewhat more open-mindedness as more gameplay vids surfaced.
Let’s get this out of the way first. Dante was never cool. His brand of give ‘em hell, too cool for school attitude only took him so far before you eventually had to roll your eyes. Sure in my younger days I thought his rocket-riding, pizza eating, demon taunting swagger was good enough to get me hooked on the fiction but even I thought it was a little played out after the third game. Still, as goofy as Dante is he’s a very memorable character in Capcom’s deep roster. But in the end, it’s not how cool you think you are that makes a good game. No, Dante doesn’t get you pumped for DMC; the high impact, brain-melting beat-‘em-up action is what brings you to table. And it was that super intense action from those outrageous cut scenes that translated into gameplay when you got your first taste of demon slaying.
Please don’t misjudge as I’m a big Devil May Cry fan, but you have to admit that this story is pretty much just theatre popcorn while the real substance is slicing baddies in all new gory ways going for that SSS-Stylish Rank!!! For the early demo it seems that Ninja Theory has a solid grasp for the fluidity of combat. The new Dante has all of the classic moves and combos. You’ll chop and slice with the Rebellion sword, popping foes with an upswing and air-juggle them using Ebony and Ivory. I was a little rusty getting back into the swing of things but quickly remembered my previous journey’s with Dante and was performing devastating combos soon enough (admittedly the demo was on normal). All the major moves seemed to be represented including Devil Trigger (now activated by clicking in both sticks). Cautious fans will like that there isn’t too much animation priority on fighting. Dante smoothly transitions between weapons and was able to keep pace with my demanding button mashing. All in all, if you‘ve played any DMC in the past it’s you can jump right into the fray. The only change is that there is no longer a button dedicated to locking on an enemy as all the face buttons have been used for other functions. The downside is that you tend to drift around a little bit while engaged but shooting more often than not auto-targeted to the correct attacker.
The big twist on gameplay is the usage of demonic and angelic weapons. By holding either triggers and pressing an attack button, each weapon allows a new move set for battling. Most importantly you can affect enemies and the environment a couple of ways. For example, using the angel weapon and pressing [X] (or □ on the PS3) will launch the scythe at an enemy and pull Dante towards them. The opposite works with the demon weapon, acting as a type of hook to reel in the baddies. It’s pretty effective for moving around, keeping enemies at bay, and most importantly connecting into bombastic hits for death-dealing aerial combos. Platforming sections take a few cues as well, with color-coded orbs that allow Dante to either pull out a section of a wall or pull himself towards a faraway location Tarzan-style. It’s pretty similar to Nero’s whippy demon hand thingy form DMC 4.
Graphically the demo looked slick. Gritty textures and dramatic lighting added a moody feel to the urban-gothic environment. The colors were bright and vibrant where appropriate but still retained dark aesthetic from the previous games. The demo I played featured Dante in a sort of Limbo realm between the waking and the demon worlds. In fact the designs of the city had this towering and foreboding sense of dread and confusion. As Dante moves about the streets, you can shades of the real world as ghostly figures warble in and out like an hazy mirage. It was as if the city was baking in an over as the light sourced from a heavy sun. The city even seemed alive and actively hating Dante. Lamp poles would twist and crunch as you approach them and walls broke open and shut off alleys to guide you around. Clearly Dante is not welcome in this reality.
The second area took place deep in the twisted, demonic version of a soda pop factory facing off a gargantuan slug beast boss suspended over a massive pool of a toxic substance. The creature is hooked up to some kind of processing plant (remember in Futurama episode about Slurm soda? pretty much that) whereby tis demon was producing a poisonous product for human consumption. The message is clearly that things are a-brewin’ in the demon world and it affects our human world. The previous level had me jumping around destroying demon spy cameras. Dante has always been a rebel at heart and it seems Ninja Theory wants to show an anti-establishmentarian side of DMC. I’m not clear on the grander scheme but if you follow the fiction, Mundus returns as a godlike character hell-bent on ruling the human world (through delicious slug-butt soda?). As for fighting the boss, Capcom had graciously provided several yellow orbs of continuing. It wasn’t the most difficult encounter from the series but the devs have their heart in the right place. Core fans will like being brutalized and maybe a fresh design will appeal to new fans.
I can say that I’m very excited for a new Devil May Cry so look for more coverage as DMC nears its release early next year!